As a musician and surgeon, art historian and scientist, the seemingly contradictory facets of my training have greatly influenced my interest in both traditional Western medicine and integrative holistic medicine. My background in the humanities informs my interaction with patients and has allowed me to understand that some apparent contradictions can coexist without being mutually exclusive, like the role of the surgeon and holistic healer. I have trained over the years through my research exploring both of these roles as a physician-scientist, which continues to inform how I approach whole body health and well-being.
Surgeons traditionally gravitate towards the immediate, hands-on satisfaction of physical healing. Scientists solve problems over years of painstaking work, often for the sake of abstract knowledge and the advancement of science. I was drawn to orthopedics as it offers a concrete means to help people in real time, with very tangible tools and hardware. But beyond the immediacy of the operating room, I am also attracted to the ability to solve problems through research, across years of work and thought. There is a delayed gratification that orthopedic research can provide, helping many people, albeit often in intangible ways.
Hand surgery in particular best compliments my dual interests. It offers gratifying answers in the form of the pain relief and return of function achieved by a well-planned and executed operation. I am however equally drawn to the questions hand surgery still poses. Joints are more than the sum of their biomechanics and joint reactive forces when one also appreciates the molecular milieu that informs the pathophysiology. I am fascinated by the intersection of macroscopic hand surgery and the microscopic pathophysiology of the tissues – bones and cartilage, tendons and nerves – that we work on, and how these aspects are unique to each patient. There is still so much more to understand in the underpinnings of hand disease and dysfunction.
Rigorous evidence of our ability to modulate the course of disease through diet and lifestyle is increasing, yet there still appears to be a disconnect. Too rarely, for instance, does the research in enriching diet through supplements reach the traditional scientific community in a way accessible to that community and addressing expected standards; and too seldom are the advancements in the molecular pathophysiology of disease accomplished in Western medicine shared in a meaningful and productive way with those interested in holistic medicine.
I believe that future discoveries in medicine will be grounded in the rigorous intellectual cross-training of the basic sciences and clinical research. However, the incredible richness and benefits available through alternative modalities such as diet and lifestyle changes, should and can be subject to this rigor. It will be the integration of these fields that will lead to the most powerful changes in healthcare.
My particular research interest has been in molecular biomarkers of inflammation and pain. While biomarkers have long dominated the fields of cardiovascular disease and cancer, orthopedics has only more recently produced sustained efforts at identifying underlying molecular pathways and how they correlate to surgical indications or outcome unique to each patient. My recent research efforts underscore my interest in molecular biomarkers of joint pain and pathology. My experience in several investigations analyzing synovial fluid in the context of challenging clinical questions translates across subspecialities, and I anticipate continuing this type of research as it relates to clinical issues in many fields.
Molecular research has the ability to evolve with the growing and dynamic communities in medicine, a diversity I represent and hope to serve throughout my career as a physician-scientist and surgeon. While I practice as a physician-scientist with a strong commitment to ongoing research in cartilage pathophysiology and the inflammatory component of pain and healing, I am committed to approaching the whole body health of my patients and advancing their well-being through holistic medicine, and as a scientist and clinician.